Linda Sher, artist and political wife, dies at 82


Artist Linda B. Sher, a former Palo Alto and Stanford resident and wife of former State Sen. Byron Sher, died Sunday, Jan. 19 in Carmichael. She was 82.

While raising her three children in Palo Alto in the 1960s and 1970s Sher was active in local education and environmental causes. She supported the political career of her husband, a Stanford Law School professor, who went from serving on the Palo Alto City Council in the 1960s and 1970s to serving in the California Assembly and California Senate from 1980 to 2004.

She spent much of her time in Placerville beginning in the late 1980s, while also maintaining residency with her husband on the Stanford campus. They changed their official residence to Placerville in 2005 after Byron Sher was termed out of the state Senate.

Linda Sher created abstract expressionist paintings and sculpture in a studio in the family's Placerville pear orchard.

"She defined herself as an artist, but she didn't show in galleries or anything like that." her son, Benjamin Sher, said.

Born in Erie, Penn. to Navy doctor Captain Frank Bowser and his wife, Isadore, Sher spent most of her childhood in Key West, Fla., later earning a degree in Russian Area Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. She was fluent in Russian.

She worked in the Slavic division of Widener Library at Harvard University following her marriage to Sher in 1952.

Sher began the study of law at Southern Methodist University while her husband was teaching there. She completed a law degree at Stanford after the couple moved to Palo Alto, though she never practiced law.

She had a lifelong interest in art and first studied at the Palo Alto Art Club, later continuing at Foothill College, the San Francisco Art Institute and the University of California at Davis.

In Palo Alto, Sher worked in her husband's political campaigns and supported the Palo Alto Art Club, Save the Bay, Midpeninsula Citizens for Fair Housing, Committee for Green Foothills, Hidden Villa and Peninsula Open Space Trust. She tutored at the Nairobi Day School, a Saturday school in East Palo Alto organized by Gertrude Wilkes, in the 1960s and 1970s.

In the Sacramento area she was a supporter of Loaves and Fishes and the American River Conservancy. She also supported international organizations, including the United Nations, Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF, UNHCR (the UN's refugee agency) and the International Rescue Committee as well as the environmental groups Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council.

In addition to her husband of 61 years, Sher is survived by their children, Adrienne Sher of Sacramento, Benjamin Sher of Placerville and Katherine Sher of El Cerrito; five grandchildren, Sarah Burke of San Francisco; Edek Sher of Gambier, Ohio; Nathaniel Sher of Oberlin, Ohio; and Dinah and Noe Gongora of El Cerrito; and her sister, Sarjana Gaydos of Mt. Shasta.

There are no plans for a memorial service, but memorial contributions may be made to UNICEF or the United Nations Association, her son said.

Chris Kenrick


Like this comment
Posted by Naphtali lnox
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 21, 2014 at 10:50 am

Heartfelt condolences to Byron Sher and his family.

Like this comment
Posted by Mike Potter
a resident of another community
on Jan 21, 2014 at 11:12 am

Our family was very saddened to learn of Linda's passing. She served as a strong role model for this political spouse... Stay focused on the important things, appreciate the people who help make a difference in our community & to tell it like it is. She adored Byron and her family so much. Such a legacy of good causes she supported.
We all thank her for sharing so much of Byron for his many years of service. Rest in Peace...
Mike Potter & Cindy Chavez

Like this comment
Posted by Emily Renzel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 21, 2014 at 11:43 am

Linda was such an interesting, intelligent, warm and caring person. I too am saddened by the news of her passing.

Like this comment
Posted by Myrtle Walker
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 21, 2014 at 1:52 pm

I too am saddened by your loss Byron. You are in my prayers. Be strong. May she rest in peace.

Like this comment
Posted by Barbara Klein
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 21, 2014 at 8:55 pm

I am sadden by Linda's passing. She was wise, strong and supportive; an artist of life. My condolence to Byron Sher and family.

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